Monday Mornings with Madison

Turning Customers into Fans

Word Count:  1,617

Estimated Read Time: 6 1/2  min.

Every company claims to offer superior customer service, or some such assertion.  Excellent service is touted so often as a distinguishing feature in marketing and promotional materials that it really has little meaning.  When companies with the worst record for service talk about their ‘commitment to service’, that’s when it’s sadly obvious that the term ‘great service’ has lost all meaning.   Think Comcast Cable, a company that consistently tops the list of worst service providers year after year and did so again in 2017[1] Think Wells Fargo, also on the worst service list, who was caught creating millions of fake customer accounts last year.  Actual great service – service that goes above and beyond and consistently makes customers happy – is rare and can, therefore, really be the ultimate differentiator in business.   That kind of service is about going beyond the basics.  It is about helping customers to not just connect with a company, but actually invest themselves in the brand. Continue reading

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How to Find Talent Today, Part 2

Word Count:  1,845

Estimated Read Time: 7 1/2  min.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, wrote that “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”  Regardless of what a company does, having top staff is essential to every organization.  From mortgage lending to manufacturing and from waste disposal to web design, companies need good employees in order to execute.  But, with the overall unemployment rate at a historic low of 4.1% and with the bachelor’s degree-holder unemployment rate holding at 2.1% in many gateway and key secondary markets, it places serious constraints on the ability of companies to grow or thrive.[1] Continue reading

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How to Find Talent Today – Part 1

Word Count:  1,510

Estimated Read Time: 6 min.

Bill Gates once said that “The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead.”  The truth is that finding the right people to fill job openings has never been easy, but he was right that it has gotten harder.  With the unemployment rate holding at 4.1% nationwide — which is at the lowest level since 2000 and before that the lowest level since 1970 — it is getting harder (and may get even harder still thanks to stimulus from the tax overhaul) to find employees without throwing huge salaries and loads of benefits at the problem.  And finding highly-skilled, educated and experienced talent is even harder.

Sometimes, the challenge is finding people with the education, experience and skills to fill a high-level job.  Think of a CTO for a blockchain currency company.  Other times, the challenge lies in finding people with a combination of skills and experience that is hard to find in one person.  Think of a CMO for a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company that raises capital for real estate and is expanding into Latin America.  Still other times, the job may require a very deep level of knowledge in a niche area that few possess.  Think of a Chief Hardware Design Engineer for the Avionics department at SpaceX.  Or the job may be in very high demand and it may be hard to find someone who wants to leave an existing job to take a job with a less well-known company or one that isn’t offering as high a salary or benefits.  Think of programmers in Silicon Valley or Investment Bankers in Manhattan.   It can even be hard to fill customary positions — such as customer service, accounting, tech support, and sales — if a company simply has a lot of vacancies to fill because it is growing.  Given the today’s job market, what should hiring managers do today to find talent?  Here are some ideas. Continue reading

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How to Use Artificial Intelligence to Boost Business

Word Count:  1,751

Estimated Read Time: 7  min.

As news articles tout how big advances in technology will make certain jobs obsolete, fear of technology is growing.  Think robotics and blockchain.  This fear of displacement is real and, to some extent, legitimate.  New technologies have been making some jobs obsolete since man began to innovate and invent.  Scribes lost their jobs when the printing press was invented.   Women who wove cloth using hand-held spindles lost their jobs with the invention of automated spinning machines.   The telephone displaced the jobs of telegraph operators.  The list of workers displaced by inventions and innovations can probably reach the sun.  But, of course, with each new invention that eliminates some jobs, other jobs are created.  For example, the rise of artificial intelligence will eliminate jobs, but it will surely also create jobs.  The question then is only one of being nimble to learn and evolve. Continue reading

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The Search for Sound Business Advice

Word Count:  1,552 

Estimated Read Time: 6  min.

The world is changing fast… so fast that saying those words simply doesn’t do justice to the rapid-fire speed of transformation.  New technologies, terminologies and strategies emerge practically daily.  The Blockchain.  Artificial Intelligence.  3D printers.  Biohybrid Robots.   Underwater drones.  Quantum computers.  Virtual Reality.  Augmented Reality.  Fusion Energy.  Gene Editing.  The list goes on and on.  There isn’t an industry or field in which advances are not happening at a dizzying pace.  And thus businesses are having to evolve at a faster pace.  Business leaders are having to parse through mountains of information to determine what matters and what doesn’t, and then how to act on it.  More than ever, there is a need to quickly separate the wheat from the proverbial chaff to identify quality information and apply it wisely.  But how do we know what sources are offering advice that is solid, reliable and worthy? Continue reading

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Customer Service Is Everyone’s Job

Word Count:  1,191 

Estimated Read Time: 5  min.

Just whose job is customer service anyway?  Most companies have a Customer Service Department that handles questions and complaints from customers.  These employees are usually individuals who are skilled at handling customer complaints and knowledgeable in how to best answer questions.  These are typically people who have ‘a way with people’.  They are empathetic, good listeners and excellent problem solvers.  The best customer service people have a calm demeanor, are likeable and genuinely care about the people they are helping. Continue reading

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Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success – Part 2

Most every leader, entrepreneur and manager wants to have and hone the qualities that contribute to and best predict success.  For example, most leaders want to demonstrate the qualities of confidence, organization, selflessness, structure, humility, and conscientiousness.  But, in excess, even the best leadership qualities can become flaws.  Someone who is too confident can become arrogant.   A person who is too organized can become obsessive.  A person who is too selfless can become a people-pleaser.  A person who is too structured can have trouble being creative.  A person who is too humble may not be able to inspire others to follow.  A person who is too conscientious can become neurotic.  However, there is one trait that every leader should have in as much abundance as possible.  That is grit, a perseverance and passion for long term goals.  There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as too much grit.  The more grit a person has, the more they press on in the face of adversity.  There is no downside to it.

Grit is a key trait – or combination of traits – that is absolutely essential for success.  And, according to Dr. Angela Duckworth who won the Genius grant for her study of grit, it is also an excellent predictor of success.[1] People with grit usually demonstrate courage, resilience, conscientiousness, follow-through, and excellence in very specific ways.  A person with grit usually has a goal he/she cares about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything he/she does.  Best of all, grit is something that can not only be learned, but also something that tends to increase with age.[2]

How to Increase One’s Grit

According to Travis Bradly in his article entitled “11 Signs You Have the Grit Needed to Succeed” published in Entrepreneur, “Developing grit is all about habitually doing the things that no one else is willing to do.”[3] That right there explains why many people lack grit.

Top 10 Ways to Help Increase Grit

1.  Work twice as hard as everyone else.

Many studies show that while talent is important, effort is more important.  In fact, it counts twice.  Consistent, solid effort and focus on a particular goal is much more important than intellect or talent in achieving that goal.  People who are highly-successful are known for working long hours and really focusing their energy and time only on tasks that further that key goal.  Warren Buffet, the self-made multibillionaire, spends most of his day most every day focused on reading and studying the financial statements of major companies.  He cuts away all of the tasks that don’t add any value to his goal of investing in the best companies.  It is reported that he has a three-step process for prioritizing.

Step 1:  Write down a list of 25 career goals.

Step 2:  Then consider which, from the list, are most important.  Circle those.

Step 3:  Look at the 20 career goals not circled.  Avoid those at all costs.  Those are just distractions from the five highest-priority goals on the list.

Call it ruthless prioritization or call it focus, but it certainly has worked for Buffett.  Duckworth added one more step to Buffett’s process for prioritizing.  She believes that the most successful people are successful because they find a common purpose among their top goals, and that becomes the “ultimate concern” or the compass goal that guides all their activity.[4] In the case of Steve Jobs, for example, his ultimate concern was to create a company that helped people to “think differently.”  The computers, phones, and pads that Apple sells are all just tools to help people think differently.[5]

2. Make a lot of mistakes.

To err is not only human, it is good.  The ability to fail, try again, fail, try again, fail, try again (you get the picture) — all without a moment’s pause – helps build grit.  Some people lack the confidence and self-esteem to fail repeatedly and not feel discouraged.  But those who can – who can fall off the proverbial horse or bike and get back on again and again — increase their grit.  The more willing a person is to try things that sound crazy or ridiculous — and may look foolish – all for the sake of achieving a goal, the more grit increases.

3. Press on even when feeling vanquished.

Tough times come to all.  No one can be in business for long without facing adversity or trials.  No one can try to create something new without having setbacks.  It is when all seems lost or pointless and things are most bleak that it is important to persevere.  Press on despite a deep desire to quit.  Consider it a ‘perseverance muscle’ that must be exercised in order for it to become stronger.

3. Make tough decisions that everyone else avoids.

No one wants to deal with difficult situation.  Reprimanding a subordinate.  Hiring someone that no one else thinks is a good fit.  Shutting down a project or company that is clearly not going to work long-term or big picture.  Having both the insight and metal to recognize when something difficult must be done and then doing it fosters grit.  It’s not fun, but it is vital.

4.  Shut out fear, doubts and negative self-talk.

There is enough fear and doubt that can creep in without anyone feeding it.  A person who wants to succeed must therefore ensure that such negative influences are shut down or kept away as much as possible.  Negative people must be distanced or removed.  A person with grit will not allow the negativity of others to bring them down, and they won’t allow negative thinking to infiltrate their mind.  They cast out fears and doubts, and focus on the goal even when no one else is on board or believes.

5. Trust your intuition.

Intuition is about relying on one’s collection of all subconscious experiences.  It’s basically a catalog of a whole lot of information that the mind has gathered for an entire lifetime and then created shortcuts to access.  They are insights that aren’t immediately available to the conscious mind at a given moment, but are all things that were learned and felt at some point.  It’s often referred to as a gut feeling.  People who want to increase their grit need to trust their gut in situations in order to hone that ability to access all of the collective wisdom in the unconscious mind.  Many people are hesitant to trust their gut, but as people age, they learn to rely on intuition more so.

6. Be patient and willing to delay gratification.

In a multitude of studies, it’s been shown that people who are patient and willing to delay gratification now for a better reward later are usually more successful.  This is a sign of grit.  Those who can exercise their need for immediate reward help to hone this “patience muscle.”

8. Stay the course even if no else believes in the vision.

A vision statement is a statement of words describing where and what an organization wants to be in the future. It usually remains unchanged for many years.[6] But often leaders may have a vision of where they want to go, but don’t have the support of the organization.  Simply put, they may not believe in the vision.  Case in point.  A new CEO was brought in to turn Borders Books around when the company was struggling to recapture market share lost to Amazon, Walmart, and others.  However, the CEO was unable to gain the support of the organization and eventually the Board of Directors fired that CEO and hired another, and then another.  No CEO could stay the course because not only didn’t the employees believe in the vision, neither did the Board.  Eventually, Borders went out of business.  It is easy for lack of support to undermine and eventually quash any goal.  Only those who are willing and able to move forward even if no one else believes will ultimately succeed.  That tenacity builds grit.

9. Over-deliver on promises.

According to a study by BBB/Gallup, when asked what CEOs could do to improve trust, 72% of respondents to one survey said, “Do a better job of keeping your promises.”[7] Another study found that 40% of consumers who had received a promise from a business in a given year felt it was not delivered, and of those 62% experienced multiple broken promises from that same business.[8] It is not unusual for companies and its leaders to not deliver on promises.  But the most successful people – those with a lot of grit – make sure to over deliver.  They believe that if you promise the moon, you deliver it with a handful of stars so they can shine in the customer’s eyes.   Delivering on promises means doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it.  Following through on a commitment, small or large, helps build trust each time. It also helps to build grit.

10. Care about the details, even when tired.

Often, business leaders are big-picture thinkers who have a low tolerance for details. They’re very clear about where their visionary journey will take them, but they may neglect the finer points and details.  But the most successful people think strategically and also pay attention to detail.  They don’t let big-picture thinking stop them from caring about the small stuff. Paying attention to the details is often what delivers a competitive advantage.  Certainly Apple’s attention to detail is what made its computers worth the price tag.  Those who care about the details, even when tired, are those who build grit.

In sum, these ten things can be done by anyone who puts their mind to it.  Anyone can be grittier with a little extra focus and effort.    Or, if a person waits long enough, it is likely to develop with age.

Quote of the Week

“I now have Grit Scale scores from thousands of American adults. My data provide a snapshot of grit across adulthood.  And I’ve discovered a strikingly consistent pattern: grit and age go hand in hand. Sixty-somethings tend to be grittier, on average, than fifty-somethings, who are in turn grittier than forty-somethings, and so on.”
Angela Duckworth

[1] Duckworth, Angela, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance, First Edition, Scribner.

[2] June 2007, By:  Angela Duckworth, Christopher Peterson, Michael D. Matthews, and Dennis R. Kelly, Grit:  Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 92 (6): 1087–1101.

[3] November 13, 2017, By:  Travis Bradly, 11 Signs You Have the Grit Needed to Succeed, Entrepreneur,

[4] Duckworth, Angela, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance, First Edition, Scribner.

[5] 2017, By:  Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, TED Talk,

[6] By:  Deborah K. Zmorenski, MBA, “Why Leaders Must Have Vision,” Noria,

[7] April, 2008, Topline – Survey Results Consumers’ Rating of Companies They Regularly Deal With , Gallup Trust in Business Index, Better Business Bureau and The Gallop Organization,

[8] 2012, Accenture Broken Promises Survey, Promises, Promises: Easily Made, Easily Broken What companies are saying versus actually doing— and how customers are responding,


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Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success

Word Count:  1,714

Estimated Read Time: 7  min.

Grit in Action, Part 1

Practically every major business news outlet has written or broadcast an article or show in the last few years about grit.  New York Times.  Entrepreneur.  Inc.  Fast Company.  Fortune.  Business Insider.   Wired.  Forbes.  NPR.  Psychology Today.   Slate.  Washington Post.  Ted Talk.  American Radio Works.  Success.  PBS.  Why is this topic getting so much media attention?  While there has never been a shortage of books and theories about what it takes to succeed, the current focus is on grit because it is not only an essential ingredient for success, but a top predictor of success too.   And doesn’t everyone want to know if they have what it takes to succeed? Continue reading

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Updating Your Corporate Brand with 2018 Design Style

Word Count:  1,436

Estimated Read Time: 5 1/2  min.

The relentless pace of change is accelerating.  Just keeping up with technology, systems, processes, laws, regulations and trends can be positively draining for corporations.  Every time we blink, some other aspect of business has evolved and requires updating.  With the arrival of 2018, companies big and small are reviewing, revisiting and restructuring their legal and operational organizations to maximize the financial and tax benefits.  There is so much that will need to be overhauled in just those areas alone.  It is easy to overlook sales and marketing when everything else needs attention, but that would be a mistake. Continue reading

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Employee Loyalty and Employee Turnover in 2018

Word Count:  1,989

Estimated Read Time: 8 min.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is holding at 4.1%, the lowest it’s been since December 2000.[1] In fact, for the first time on record, there has been job growth for 86 consecutive months.  This is considered by most economists to be close to or at “full employment.”   The stock market has also been setting records seemingly every month.  Greg Ip, a writer for Dow Jones Newswires, reported last July on Fox Business that “the economic expansion is now entering its ninth year and in two years will be the longest on record.”[2] That is now a year and a half away and economic expansion continues.  By all accounts, this is the hottest economy the U.S. has had in a very long time. Continue reading

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